Sintra, Portugal: What to know about Pena Palace

Sintra Portugal Pena Palace

I’d wanted to visit Pena Palace in Sintra for so long but when I finally got here a couple of months ago, I failed so badly.

Here’s what you should know so you can have a great visit. As for myself, I wish I could have a do-over on No. 3. 

1. It almost goes without saying these days but: Go early and allow lots of time because you’ll almost certainly get a bit lost.

2. From Lisbon, don’t look for the red Metro signs. The train to Sintra is a separate railway line and station, and is marked by signs that say Coimboio, which means Train. If you’re in the centre of Lisbon, find the Rossio Railway Station, which is marked by a sign on the front that says Estação Central in a hard-to-read scripty font. It’s the building at the side of the Hotel Avenida. If you have the reloadable yellow cards, it’ll be faster for you to buy your ticket to Sintra. It’s cheap: Two return tickets to Sintra cost just 9,20 euros.

Sintra Portugal Pena Palace

3. Don’t bother with the Pena Palace unless you love touring the musty rooms of castles in a sardine-like line with thousands of other people. I wish I hadn’t spent any time in the castle at all. But if you do want to see the Pena Palace: They are very strict about being there at the right time. We ended up buying tickets twice (the second set while on the train) because we were so late and didn’t want to risk getting turned away. It’s very clear on the tickets you must be there at the right time. (And then we ended up hating the palace tour that we paid twice for ... Grrrrrr!)

4. Dress warmly. Sintra is high in the mountains — after all, this was the summer home of Portuguese royalty trying to escape the heat of the city. I was freezing with a hoodie and a light jacket.

5. The last bathrooms are at the palace entry. From this point on you’ll be in a huge line waiting to see the interior and won’t be able to leave it.

Sintra Portugal Pena Palace
This is the lineup that wends its way through the entirety of Pena Palace. It's long, hot and unless you're super interested in historic palace furniture, I'd skip this and just concentrate on the beautiful grounds and/or the town of Sintra itself.